FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office will be the first sheriff’s office on the Treasure Coast to implement body-worn cameras, which will be gun holster and Taser activated.
The new equipment was unveiled Friday during a news conference at the Indian River State College Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex auditorium.
This will be the first time St. Lucie County deputies will have Tasers as part of their less than lethal gear, which adds onto their ASP batons, pepper spray and less-lethal shotgun rounds.
St. Lucie County commissioner Chris Dzadovsky said the county was able to use CARES Act funding to pay for body-worn cameras and Tasers, helping take some of the burden off taxpayers.
The five-year, $5 million contract covers all of the costs of the equipment, unlimited video data storage and training which also focuses on de-escalation and empathy.
The Axon tasers utilize new technology which allows a deputy to emit the sound of a Taser without the shock, which could help keep deputies from needing to use the Taser.
"The research has shown that just the sound of it may make somebody calmer and be like, 'OK, I don't want a part of that,'" said Axon spokeswoman Georgia LeCox.
The sheriff's office is currently developing policies and procedures for the 331 deputies that will use the equipment.
The cameras automatically start recording in multiple scenarios, according to Chief Deputy Brian Hester. The cameras also record the video 30 seconds prior to a deputy hitting record, or the cameras automatically being activated.
That includes a deputy turning on lights and sirens or being in the proximity of other activated body cameras.
"If we were sitting in this room and my camera was activated, everyone within a 30-foot radius, their camera would automatically activate as well," Hester explained.
Sheriff Ken Mascara said the cameras can also operate similarly to a shot spotter.
"If a deputy is at a scene, and if there's a shot heard in the background, the camera automatically comes on," Mascara said.
Law enforcement will begin receiving training with the Tasers in May.
Deputies are setting up training for the cameras and tasers, setting up policies and procedures for more than 330 deputies. Training will begin in May with tasers. BWC training will begin in July. The taser activated cameras will be in use by October. @stluciesheriff @WPTV— Meghan McRoberts (@MeghanWPTV) March 26, 2021
"They are the most effective less-lethal option out there," Hester said.
Body-worn camera training will start in July.
Officials said the cameras will be in use by October.
Hester said the body-worn cameras are not a "cure-all" but increase transparency and the effectiveness of law enforcement training.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office becomes the 24th sheriff's office in Florida to implement body-worn cameras.
According to Mascara, they will be the only sheriff’s office between Broward and Volusia counties to have Taser-activated body cameras.
"If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth a million words," Mascara said.